“Now it is our time to suffer and die…” Syrian Archbishop Reports on the Destruction in Damascus

picture of damascus homes and black smoke rising from bombsI am posting for your consideration a letter that was sent out two weeks ago. Although I have seen a few Catholic stories here and there, I had not found the full text of the letter anywhere, so haven gotten my grubby hands on a copy, I post the whole letter here. There may be a copy in Arabic, but I’d not be able to read it if so.

Damascus is home to the Patriarch of the Melkite Church, a proper Patriarchate in union with the Roman Church. There is a long history and some very interesting discussion that could be digressed therein, but for now, the reader should consider that there are Maronites and Melkites, as well as Orthodox — all believers in the Holy Sacraments and the Nicene Creed — living peacefully in Syria. Peacefully, that is, until recently when conquest and destruction in the form of tanks — TANKS (not mere rebel events) have been bombing.

Bishop Nicholas, referred to below, is the Bishop for the Eparchy of Newton, Melkite diocese for the United States.

His Grace, Bishop Nicholas, forwards this message he received from Bishop Shaheen to you about the terrible situation in Damascus.

Dear friends,

I will keep on writing as long as I live and as the Internet access is still possible … Since Tuesday, July 17, 2012 morning, the battles reached the capital Damascus using heavy weapons, tanks and helicopters in a crowded city. The destruction is enormous. What a Calvary!

The clashes are taking place in the streets and move from one neighborhood to another. It is impossible to sleep with the fear and the sound of bombs and gunfire of cannons. Summer temperatures are from 42°C (108°F) to 56°C (133°F) and power outages are awful.

Damascus is cut off the rest of the Syrian cities and suffers from many shortages. The supplies can no longer reach it. We are short of bread, vegetables, live, cooking gas and fuel for bakeries …

Run for your lives … Many families are leaving the hot neighborhoods of battles to form an endless chain on the road to Lebanon. Other roads to Jordan, Iraq and north to Homs-Aleppo are closed.

A general feeling of panic is causing the exodus towards Lebanon. I hope the people the will find the proper welcome there … Because the Syrians have so welcomed Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqis refugees…

The few faithful who dared coming to pick up the courage from the mass burned many candles at the tomb of Blessed Martyrs of Damascus. They exchanged farewells and tears before returning running to their homes under the sounds of gunfire and explosions …

Damascus was spared for 16 months from the violence that tore the other cities of Syria … here comes our chance to suffer and die.

We just managed to to fit in a corner under the stairs to shelter with our neighbors from the bombshells. the caves of the parish have just been cleaned… Provided that the Resurrection will not be late after so much suffering ….

Damascus Syria July 20, 2012

Archbishop Samir Nassar

Maronite Archbishop of Damascus

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken very frankly about the situation in Syria as well — exhorting us to prayer for relief to the Christians and all living there.

I post these things here because I don’t think the news hits the situation such that we are made to understand that nobody in Syria wants the destruction. Yet, it is there. Imagine if your home were being bombed, food cut off, and anarchy were in the streets.

His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III of the Melkite Church has laid out several statements about just how bad it is there. Anarchy was his word in a statement with 24 observations on the situation in Syria from mid-July.

The Patriarch spells it out very clearly:

2. […] But [Christians] are also the peace-making, unarmed group, calling for dialogue, reconciliation, peace and unity among all the sons and daughters of the same homeland. This is the rarest kind of talk that many do not wish to hear. We Christians, to whom was entrusted the Gospel of Peace, feel ourselves called to further it.
3. Nevertheless, there is no Muslim-Christian conflict. Christians are not targeted as such, but can be reckoned among the victims of chaos and lack of security.
4. The greatest danger is interference from Arab or Western foreign elements. This interference takes the form of weapons, money and one-sided, programmed, subversive means of communication.
5. Such interference is harmful even to what is called the opposition. It is injurious to the just claims that are expressed more or less everywhere. This interference harms national unity at home by mixing up the cards.

Specifically, the Western “interference also weakens the specifically Christian voice of moderation and more particularly, the voice of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria.” For one thing, the Church declarations were “always positive, peaceable, calling for love and dialogue and rejecting resorting to arms. It advocated protecting defenceless citizens and not involving civilians in fighting. In short, the declarations are very remote from extremism of any kind.”

Yet, says the Patriarch, the interference has created a “campaign against the leaders of the Churches in Syria and against their standpoints.”

The Patriarch infers that the media and others have maligned the Christian leaders as somehow advocating military resistance and action against other religious. They haven’t done any such thing. In fact, the various Patriarchs and Metropolitans of Syria have been quick to condemn all violence, every time — in joint statements.
The Patriarch rightly points out that they are being lied about, and he names the people twisting facts as a campaign to create deceptive understanding about what is happening and who wants fighting in Syria. It’s not the Christians that want any fighting. But the media keeps painting things that way, says the Patriarch with the other metropolitans:

On the other hand, we think that the attitudes of certain persons and particular institutions, and the press campaign, are harming Christians in Syria and exposing them to danger, kidnapping, exploitation and even death. These attitudes heap false accusations on Christians, sowing doubt in their hearts and spreading fear and isolation. As a result, they help their exodus both inside the country and abroad…

It becomes clear from the Patriarch’s statement and 24 points in that linked document, that the bombs and tanks aren’t even the worst of it, but the dissembly of the press trying to make it look like the Christians want it. It is one thing to be misunderstood. It is a far worse thing to be lied about and made into something you are not. It’s clear that whatever else is happening in Syria, the Christians don’t want the destruction of tanks, bombs, or lies.

It’s a deadly time. May God have mercy on us. Say a Hail Mary, or even a whole Rosary, that the Blessed Mother bring some help.

This article, “Now it is our time to suffer and die…” Syrian Archbishop Reports on the Destruction in Damascus is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benzinger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.

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